Água Carioca is a research and design project analysing the potential for natural, self-sufficient and decentralised small-scale water management in informal settlements, by means of several case studies in Rio de Janeiro. It fundamentally turns around how we deal with water in urban areas: it is a scalable sanitation solution treating and recycling wastewater directly where it is produced. It addresses lack of sanitation, water quality, scarcity and environmental improvement using three scalable and adaptive elements – rainwater harvesting, septic tanks and constructed wetlands – alongside community participation and management.
The research resulted in four design proposals (and a city vision), on scales ranging from one school to a whole city district and has also implemented a full scale pilot at the Sitio Roberto Burle Marx. The project has been exhibited at several locations across Rio de Janeiro and has received support from Stimuleringfonds NL. The project was the recipient of the Lafarge Holcim Awards Bronze 2017 Latin America.
From 2012 to 2014, invited by the municipality of Rio de Janeiro and supported by the Creative Industries Fund NL, we carried out in-depth research about the water situation in several of the city’s informal settlements. We listened to the many voices of different actors in Rio de Janeiro - activists, municipality, researchers and community leaders - and discussed with them the potentialities of natural, small-scale and decentralized water management systems with rainwater collection and constructed wetlands to improve social and environmental conditions. These dialogues informed four design proposals (and one city vision) on scales ranging from one school building to a whole city district in four distinct favelas in the city. The results were documented in a film and exhibited at Studio-X in Rio de Janeiro in spring 2014.
Since 2015, the project team have continued to develop the project, implementing a pilot in Sítio Burle Marx, holding two further exhibitions and exploring the potential for projects with neighbourhoods and public institutions. Realising the full scale pilot was the most important step so far. It introduced the technology of constructed wetlands ‘live’, in a way that was attractive for many educational programmes and cultural institutions, from small to large scale, including municipal and state government. It is able to reach a broad public as well as decision makers.